Well-meaning but clumsy biography of the obscure, hard-boiled 30's novelist. Anderson is best known for his gritty crook tale Thieves Like Us, commemorated twice by Hollywood film versions, including Robert Altman's 1974 gem. The rest of Anderson's career is rubble, sifted by Bennett with determined sympathy. The son of a Texas printer, Anderson ran away from home at 16, beginning a vagabond life that fed the down-at-heels imaginings of his fiction. Forever attracted to tales of miscreants and the crime exploits of heroes like Dillinger and Clyde Barrow, Anderson began cooking up pulp short stories and eventually two novels under the tutelage of fellow hack John Knox. The rest is archetypal literary tough-guy bio: marriage, poverty, a move to Hollywood and a stab at screenwriting; hobnobbing with stars; hirings, firings--all leading up to a drinking problem that sent Anderson's life reeling. Burned on the sale of movie rights of Thieves Like Us, abandoned by his wife, Anderson eventually drifted back to Texas, shacking up with a new lover, reading Swedenborg, and getting straight while grinding out copy for a tiny Texas newspaper, his 52nd journalistic gig. He died in 1969. Bennett tries hard--too hard at times--to fill in the gaps of a sketchy, underdeveloped literary life. Yet through the cloying prose and occasional padding comes a picture of an American original worth remembering.